Why Its Normal To Resent Your Stepchildren

Find me a person who has ever grown up thinking of or picturing their life as a stepparent, and I’ll show you a liar. Stepfamilies, as beautiful as they are, do not represent something we dream about as children or draw on our vision boards. Because being part of a stepfamily is something that happens unexpectedly, we often have to reimagine our lives when we find ourselves here. This reimagining can be a recipe for resentment. It’s like adding a new ingredient and having to change the whole recipe as a result.

Why It’s Normal to Resent Your Stepchildren

All stepfamilies are bound to encounter unmet expectations at some point, from trying to co-parent with a high-conflict ex to struggling to build a bond and positive relationship with stepkids. Because the expectations for stepfamilies aren’t clear, we use first-time families as our North Star and benchmark, and when we do that we’ll fail every single time.

Is it normal to resent stepchildren?

The relationship between a stepmom and a stepchild is truly unique, so it can feel impossible to actually identify our feelings — both the good and the bad. Many of us feel like moms. We bathe them, clothe them, and pack their lunches, but we are not Mom.

When we are disliked or only hesitantly accepted by the kids when we come into the picture, we feel like our entire self is being rejected, which makes us feel inadequate and like a dagger to our self-esteem. Being rejected is like tossing hot oil onto a pan and having it snap, crackle, and pop right onto your arm. Resentment is how you start to feel toward the oil and that pan after it burns you too many times.

It’s no secret custody agreements have a major influence over planning and scheduling. For me, it actually helps to have some of those decisions made for me (I didn’t always feel that way though). My Type A, introverted self (hello Enneagram 1) likes the structure it imposes.

For LOTS of other stepmoms it can feel restrictive and downright suffocating, especially if the relationship between the two houses is strained or downright hostile. These restrictions can develop into resentment toward the kids when you have anger about the control the schedule has over you, and the kids are the physical manifestation of that control.

Tons of other factors can contribute to why it’s normal to resent your stepchildren, but another major driver is money. Similarly to a custody agreement, the impact of divorce, custody and child support, and raising kids can put a strain on your finances that you aren’t used to and that feels unfair. And again, the kids can function as a physical manifestation of that strain and frustration, making them a target for resentment.

Is it normal to be jealous of your stepkids?

It sure is.

This is an unnatural and complex dynamic, and we don’t know how the hell we’re “supposed to feel.” We’re in a new relationship where our partner’s time, energy, and focus are being taken away from us more than it usually is, especially in the early stages.

We’re faced with a bonding process that’s long and challenging, to say the least. Our partners are struggling with pleasing multiple people, balancing their attention and priority, and potentially dealing with a difficult situation with their ex.

The kids are being faced with a brand new person in their lives, plopped into a role they might not have gotten a say in, and expected to just accept us. They might even be blaming the stepparent for the fact that their parents are no longer together and they now have two houses — which can trigger behavior that puts ours in a position to choose between you and them.

It is normal to be jealous of your stepkids, but if you are feeling that way something does need to be done. It’s not healthy to sit in those feelings and make no changes, and the change that usually needs to be made is a strengthened bond between you and your partner that helps you feel more secure and comfortable with your place in the family. You’re the queen of your castle, and you should feel like it.

Is it normal to resent your stepchildren? The short answer is, yes of course.

Is it normal not to like your stepchild?

Imagine someone pointed to a child across the street and said, “Go care for that child and love them like they’re your own.”

You’d tell that person they were off their rocker, am I right?

Some of us hit the jackpot when it comes to our stepkids. I consider myself one of those people. My stepdaughter is kind, empathetic, honest, and downright hilarious. We’re so similar it’s downright scary.

Plus, I was embedded into her life when she was three years old. We face the same challenges everyone does, from co-sleeping to hormones to picky diets to social challenges. But this is not the case for many, many stepfamilies.

Sometimes the kids and stepmom just don’t mesh, whether it’s a personality clash, respect issues, a loyalty bind, behavior, and emotional difficulties — you name it. Maybe you and your stepchild flat out just don’t like each other as people. And that’s okay. Some parents and their children just don’t get along, but primary parents see them through the lens of love first and responsibility second. Stepparents are one layer removed, so it changes our lens.

We see them through the lens of responsibility first and love second, which means their flaws are visible to us at all times. It’s normal not to like your stepchild. And when that happens, go for kindness and respect first and foremost, and let go of the pressure you put on yourself to have specific feelings. The feelings you have are always valid.

We often call stepfamilies “blended families,” but sometimes that puts additional pressure on us to combine ingredients and create something that looks and tastes a certain way. But that’s not always possible, and that’s okay.

If you’re feeling resentful, jealous, or negatively in any way about your stepkids, there are tools and strategies you can practice to begin to feel comfortable in your feelings and gain some peace back in your life. The key here is forgiveness and it starts with forgiveness of yourself and your own feelings.

Need support with resentment? Join the Stepfamily Circle membership to connect with me and with other stepmoms to explore this more deeply together.